Paramount+’s new sitcom Spreadsheet is one of those shows which assumes that there’ll be laughs -a-plenty if the main character is a zany idiot caught up in madcap situations. Everything’s hectic! Something’s gone wrong! OMG panic! You know the kind of thing.
But what never really works in a sitcom is when a character who’s presented as an idiot would clearly have to be very smart to be in the job they have. Sure, smart people can be absolute idiots sometimes, but there’s a limit to how idiotic you can be and remain in employment. Mind you, Spreadsheet’s main character, Lauren (Katherine Parkinson), who’s a big shot lawyer of some kind, might not remain a big shot lawyer of some kind if she can’t get it together…
Lauren is a divorcee, trying to juggle her career with parenthood and a sex life. And it’s while juggling all three that she runs through a pedestrian crossing and loses her driver’s licence and car. She’s also hopeless with technology, which means that she accidentally sends explicit pictures to colleagues and at the same time posts them to social media. Not to mention that her assistant Alex (Rowan Witt) seems to be spending more time managing Lauren’s spreadsheet of casual hook-ups and dick pics than he does on her helping her win legal cases.
Why he does this is unclear. It’s not the job he’s paid to do, yet somehow, he’s suddenly driving Lauren to work, and her kids to school, and helping her get out of the explicit pictures problem. Nerdy colleague Simon (Ryan Shelton) also gets roped in, on the basis that the pictures are part of a case that’s being prepared. Meanwhile, beady-eyed colleague Ange (Karen Milosevic), fresh from delivering a sexual harassment workshop, receives Lauren’s explicit pictures and starts to get suspicious. Is Lauren about to lose her job, Alex and the spreadsheet?
What’s difficult with Spreadsheet is that it’s clearly intended to be a “you go, sister”-type comedy about a middle-aged woman without sexual hang-ups, yet the plot just reeks of #MeToo. It’s not a plot you could do with a male lead, but it doesn’t necessarily work with a female lead either. Having hook-ups and satisfying your kinks is fine, but dragging your colleagues into it feels really, really wrong, even if they do seem to be weirdly up for it.
As for laughs, there are a few to be found in Spreadsheet, but they’re absolutely nothing to do with Lauren’s oh-so-crazy life. Damian Callinan as dating app liar Felix is about as funny as it gets. And he’s in it for approximately one minute.